Let’s forget that it’s been two and half years now since I studied abroad, and pretend we’re back in the summer of 2012 and that this post is just the most timely thing ever. Alright, everyone there? No?
…Well it was worth a shot. Part two of this Irish-Scottish adventure began a little bumpy, but what’s an adventure without a few bumps along the way?
Part I left off heading to the Cork airport in Ireland, but because of the storm we were experiencing only got worse, our flight from the tiny airport was cancelled. (Waiting through the delays to this point, Amanda and I spent our time attempting to dry our completely soaked layers with the hand dryer in the restroom.) Admittedly I grew somewhat nervous having not been in this situation before, so I was glad not to be traveling on my own!
As luck would have it, we had nothing to worry about. The airline was extremely helpful in getting everyone on the flight a ride to Dublin, plus a free night at a hotel near the airport, and an early morning flight to Edinburgh in the morning. I don’t think I’ll forgot listening to an Irish EuroCup match on our shared cab ride with two (quite nice) strangers – it was one of those unexpected experiences that gives a trip character!
When we arrived in Edinburgh early the next morning it was still drizzly, so after checking in at our hostel we decided to grab some breakfast next door. It was quite easy to get around the city. There’s a bus that runs from the airport to the train station right near the center of Edinburgh and our hostel was only two blocks away from the station, which was great for our time there.
After much needed food and a warm drink, we decided to brave the lingering dampness and head to the Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden – which was beautiful! Entrance is free and anyone with an inkling of a green thumb will enjoy strolling through and admiring the colorful variety of plants. It turned out that walking over there (while lovely) was a bit longer than anticipated (whoops) and it had started to drizzle again, so we bused it back to the hostel and we tried to figure out what to do for the evening.
With the rain and being exhausted from our early start that morning, we ended up doing something ‘normal’ – well, normal for being in a state of travel – and saw a movie at the nearby theater after making some dinner.
*Note to American theaters: If you served kettle corn like this theater did, I would splurge way more often on popcorn at the movies
Our second day in Edinburgh we woke up early and made our way to the meeting spot for a Hairy Coo Tour. A hairy what? Well it’s this awesome all-day tour of the highlands in a small, bright orange bus made to look like a hairy coo (Scottish hairy cow). The tour is intimate and independently run, and our guides were fantastic.
We made various stops throughout the day, breaking up the driving nicely and giving us many opportunities to take in the stunning views of the mountains and lakes (or lochs, I should say!). The tour runs on a ‘pay what you can/think you should’ method (so they understand if you’re a broke student and can’t give as much), and the fact they’ve been running for years now says a lot about its quality. If you’re visiting Edinburgh, I’d highly recommend looking into a Hairy Coo Tour!
Bonus: Our final stop before returning from the tour was to the castle used in the French kniggit scene of Monty Python and our bus was equipped with coconut halves to run up the path clacking together with. Yes, it was brilliant.
Day three saw us taking the train to St. Andrews where a friend from home happened to go to school and was about to graduate. He showed us around the small town, which is a unique place. It seemed like something straight out of a book with the architecture and history, its location right by the ocean, plus its claim to fame as the birthplace of golf.
After strolling through most of the town (like I said, it’s small), we stopped in a pub for a drink and bite to eat before heading back to Edinburgh. There’s always something a bit surreal about seeing a familiar face while traveling, but also reassuring and a treat!
The fourth and final day of our trip was spent simply exploring the city, so it was especially lovely that the sun finally decided to make an appearance. It also happened to be my 21st birthday – but that’s beside the point. We checked out the Monday markets as well as some local shops here and there in search of souvenirs and gifts, and just generally wandered, which Edinburgh is a perfect city for! We walked the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace and explored around the Old Town area before it was time to head back to the hostel to collect our things and take the bus back to the airport.
Despite a delay we were able to catch the last train back to Brighton upon our return before we would be stuck in the airport until morning (never a dull moment, eh?). I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate my 21st than traveling and making memories on another adventure, and I would return to Edinburgh in a heartbeat. It’s a beautiful city which feels more like a large, friendly town. Besides, I recently learned there’s a Harry Potter themed exploration of Edinburgh (J.K. Rowling wrote the books there, duh – should’ve known!) AND Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born here, so I’ll have to go back. No two ways around it.
A long post, but at long last I give you the final trip while studying abroad. I have every intention of getting back to regularly updating, so thanks for sticking around as I work through this wonky schedule of late. As always thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…